Over 60 percent of Bihar reeling under drought

Patna, Aug 2 (IANS) With more than 60 percent of Bihar reeling under drought-like conditions and the state recording 20 percent rainfall deficit, the government is set to declare over two dozen districts drought-hit, officials said Monday.

‘The state cabinet in its meeting Tuesday will formally declare more than two dozen districts drought hit,’ said an official of the state disaster management department.

Vayasji, principal secretary of disaster management department, told IANS that the drought situation was alarming with the rainfall deficit badly affecting paddy sowing and transplantation.

According to sources in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s office, a high level meeting of top state administration officials chaired by Chief Secretary Anup Mukharjee was held here Sunday to decide the steps to be taken to deal with the crisis.

‘The meeting mainly discussed the drought like situation on the basis of reports sent by district magistrates and the future course of action to tackle the situation,’ an official said.

Last week, the government had asked all district magistrates to submit reports on the drought.

A state agriculture department official said 32 of 38 districts were reeling under drought like conditions due to scanty rains. Officials say paddy transplantation is badly hit in the districts of Gaya, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Arwal and Nawada, which had been declared drought hit last year too following a 29 percent rainfall deficit.

The state government is likely to demand Rs.15,000 crore from the central government to tide over the problem.

‘After the cabinet declares number of districts drought hit, the state government will seek financial help from central government to tackle drought,’ an official said.

Farmers are also complaining that there is no water in the canals for irrigation. A large part of central Bihar is irrigated by water from the Sone river and regulated through canals.

Last year, the government declared 26 of 37 districts drought-hit following poor rains.

So far paddy transplantation has been completed in 13 lakh hectares against a targeted 35 lakh hectares, officials said. ‘By the end of July, paddy transplantation would have been completed, but scanty rains have forced farmers to stay away from the field.’

‘Poor rains coupled with non-availability of groundwater have already delayed paddy transplantation in large parts of the state and in some districts paddy sowing has been badly hit,’ an agriculture department official said.

Monsoon normally hits the state between June 12 to June 14. While the rains have begun, they have been scanty.

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